Recently, the attorney general and others have made statements and have published letters that suggest my agency was premature in alerting nursing home residents and others of the possible impact on their health care and lives should the legislature not properly fund health care services.
To that false allegation, I would ask, “when do you fill your car up with gas … when the tank starts to get low, or do you keep on driving it until it’s empty and it stalls?” Responsibility is not intentionally driving your car until it runs out of gas. Instead, we keep an eye on the indicator and take action before it is too late. Being prepared is being responsible, not only when driving a car, but in all situations.
It was this sole reason that we made the most difficult decision to send letters to nursing home residents and others alerting them there was a strong possibility that the funds necessary to pay for their care would be eliminated. It was important to us to give vulnerable Medicaid recipients enough early warning so they could be prepared.
Going back to the running on empty example … the tank became half-full when the Legislature refused to address the known budget shortfall in 2017 and during this year’s special session. Then, when the House approved a budget that cut health care by more than $1.8 billion a few weeks ago, the tank had run dry.
Although there were some promises that health care funds would be restored during a special session, history of inaction during past sessions left us with little confidence. Those letters were written to give full transparency to those who are at risk for a life and health upheaval, and we have been busy since they were mailed.
We have had numerous meetings with providers, advocates and families to keep them fully informed. We have researched every Medicaid rule and how it affects individual situations to see if there are alternative solutions, and my team has visited every nursing home in the state to meet with patients, families and nursing home staff.
I have also visited several nursing homes and have seen first-hand the heartbreak and anguish on the faces of those whose lives are at risk, and my staff and I have told them the hard truths. As another special session is set to begin, I hope and pray our elected leaders have the courage to take the actions to fully fund not only vital health care services but all of the services that the people of Louisiana rely upon to live their lives to the fullest.